We haven't seen much of Half-Life: Alyx after the VR-exclusive title was revealed last November, but since then Valve has been more open about its development processes than it has been for years. Today that trend is continuing with a Reddit AMA thread at r/HalfLife, where Valve developers are answering questions about Half-Life: Alyx and, most importantly, assuring fans that it looks like the game will make its March 2020 release window.
"With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done," says Valve in the AMA thread. At the moment, Half-Life: Alyx's team of "around 80 people" ("the largest single team we've ever had at Valve") is focused primarily on bug fixes and polish. "We let the Valve Time happen before we announced the game," the developer jokes, referring to the long-running joke about Valve's habit for delaying games and offering vague windows for updates.
Valve says new Half-Life: Alyx gameplay videos will be released between now and launch, highlighting both gameplay and different VR mobility options. Half-Life: Alyx is being designed to accommodate a variety of VR control schemes across the range of SteamVR compatible headsets it supports. As for accessibility features, Valve notes its work is nearly done there, but that there's "a little bit more" it would like to work on, such as support for one-armed play.
Modders will be disappointed to hear that Valve doesn't plan to release a full software development kit for Source 2 alongside Half-Life: Alyx. "We'd really like to release one at some point, but it's a ton of work because Source 2 is a new toolset," says Valve. Still, Valve will release an updated version of Hammer, its level creation tool, for use with Half-Life: Alyx. "Hammer in Source 2 has been overhauled from the ground up," writes level designer Corey Peters. "Everything from how geometry is built and textured to how asset creation is done has been improved to increase the speed and ease at which we can build and iterate on levels."
Valve's choosing to remain a bit cagey about new gameplay details in the AMA, but the developers do tease some of the new directions that VR has taken Half-Life's enemies in. The ceiling-hugging Barnacles that used to hoist players off the ground won't move the player in VR anymore, but a run-in with their tongues won't be an instant death either. Apparently, you can toss a bucket on a Headcrab and it'll still move around, which playtesters keep mistakenly reporting as a bug. Valve also promises that with certain enemy encounters, the noises that players make and limb dismemberment will come into play.
Writer Erik Wolpaw isn't keen on giving away story details, but he does say he prefers having Alyx as a voiced protagonist (and furthermore, Valve says it hopes to work with Alyx's original voice actress Merle Dandridge again in the future). As for moving ahead with the Half-Life story without its original writer Marc Laidlaw, Valve says that "there's no truth" to rumors that Laidlaw had a falling out with the company, and that he's been "super generous with his time" in answering questions from Half-Life: Alyx's writing team.
You might wonder what questions Half-Life: Alyx would raise considering that it's a prequel to Half-Life 2, but Valve has indicated that it will move the series' story forward in a way despite its place in the timeline. To help newcomers catch-up ahead of Half-Life: Alyx's release, Valve has made every game in the Half-Life series free-to-play on Steam from now until the VR title's launch in March. Hopefully, Valve will continue to be forthcoming about the Half-Life series, Left 4 Dead, and the stalled Campo Santo project In the Valley of Gods after we've all gotten our hands on Half-Life: Alyx.